If you like Jack Daniel’s, you’ll probably have several of their whiskeys in your home bar (or as in my case – the bookshelf I call my bar), and even more unopened ones stored away ready to replace them as soon as they’re finished. That’s why it’s important to know how long Jack Daniel’s Whiskeys last before going bad.
Under normal circumstances, an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s will last indefinitely without going bad, and an opened bottle of Jack Daniel’s will last between 6 months to 2 years before its taste changes. If exposed to the wrong environment, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s can go bad in one or two months.
Let’s look at that in more detail, so you’re aware of all the exceptions.
Why Jack Daniel’s Whiskeys Last for Such A Long Time
Under normal circumstances, Jack Daniel’s whiskeys last for a very long time without going bad for two reasons:
- Because they get their flavors from the barrels in which they’re matured, so once they’re bottled they can’t continue to age and eventually deteriorate.
- Their high ABVs help preserve them by freezing all their esters, congeners and volatile alcohols, and placing them in kind of suspended animation.
However, unopened bottles of Jack Daniel’s have the problem of evaporation and opened bottles of Jack Daniel’s have the problem of oxidation.
How Long an Unopened Bottle of Jack Daniel’s Lasts
Although an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s will last indefinitely without going bad, it will evaporate. This is because most airtight seals are usually not 100% airtight (even if the seal is a twist on lid that’s more airtight than a cork), so there’s still some room for the whiskey to escape.
However, the bottle is still sealed so this is a very slow process – although the speed will obviously depend on how airtight the seal is, and if you’re storing your Jack Daniel’s for only a few years as you finish the ones you bought earlier, the minimal amount that will evaporate will be tolerable.
However, if you’re planning on storing your Jack Daniel’s for a long time then evaporation will become a problem. After ten years the amount of Jack Daniel’s to have evaporated will be noticeable and after 30 – 40 years the filling level will have decreased drastically.
In such a case, you’ll want to prevent evaporation by making your bottles of Jack Daniel’s more or 100% airtight. You can do this by attaching an additional seal. This can be an additional cap on top of the cork or by dipping your bottle in wax, but these methods can damage the bottle and the underlying seal, so are not a good idea if it’s an especially valuable bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
A better solution is to use parafilm. This is a film made from a blend of waxes and polyolefins that’s semi-transparent and flexible. It’s malleable, non-toxic, tasteless, odorless, and self-sealing. You can wrap it around the lid making it airtight and it won’t harm the underlying seal. The only downside is that after some time it becomes brittle and less effective, so it needs replacing every five to seven years.
You can buy All Purpose Laboratory Parafilm on Amazon here.
How Long an Opened Bottle of Jack Daniel’s Lasts
An opened bottle of Jack Daniel’s will last for six months to two years before it oxidizes.
Oxidation is when oxygen binds to one chemical compound and turns it into another. When oxygen gets into a bottle of Jack Daniel’s it will change the compounds and the flavors. Precisely how the flavors of your Jack Daniel’s will change can’t be predicted. It could be for the better, but often (and remember, there is such a thing as murphy’s law) it’s for the worse.
The process of oxidation can’t be stopped and once you’ve opened a bottle of Jack Daniel’s it’s inevitable, but there are things you can do to slow it down.
Firstly, make sure your bottle is sealed tightly. If the original cork does not seal your bottle well, buy a poly seal cap. Secondly, if your bottle has a twist on lid you should re-tighten it regularly because they often become lose on their own. Finally, there’s also the option of transferring your Jack Daniel’s into a hermetically sealed glass container.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple because while these things will slow down the process of oxidation, merely drinking your Jack Daniels will speed it up. That’s because the more Jack Daniel’s you drink the more air / oxygen there will be inside the bottle (the headspace). A tightly sealed bottle doesn’t do anything about the continuously increasing amount of air already inside it.
Fortunately, an inch or two of headspace won’t have much effect on the taste of your Jack Daniel’s for at least a year but if three quarters of your bottle is air, its quality will degrade in about a month (unless you transfer your Jack Daniel’s into a smaller bottle to reduce the amount of headspace).
That’s why if you want to get the best out of your Jack Daniel’s whiskeys they should be finished within a few months of being opened.
When Jack Daniel’s Whiskeys Do Go Bad
Although under normal circumstances Jack Daniel’s whiskeys will last a long time before going bad, under the following two abnormal circumstances they can go bad quite quickly.
Being Exposed to Direct Light or Direct Sunlight
If your bottle of Jack Daniel’s is exposed to direct light or direct sunlight for long periods of time it will go bad.
That’s because direct light and (worse) direct sunlight creates a chemical reaction in the volatile compounds of your whiskey which causes them to break down. Jack Daniel’s stored for long periods of time in direct light or direct sunlight will therefore degrade – in one or two months, causing it to taste harsher, possibly even of rubber, paint thinner or rotten fruit.
Also, the ultraviolet rays of the sun bleach out the color pigments of whiskey causing your Jack Daniel’s to lose some of its golden color.
Being Exposed to Extreme or Fluctuating Temperatures
If your bottle of Jack Daniel’s is exposed to extreme or fluctuating temperatures it will evaporate or oxidize quicker.
Higher temperatures will obviously cause more evaporation, but it also causes more oxidation. That’s because whiskey expands in the heat causing your 40%ABV or higher Jack Daniel’s to be in constant contact with the seal of the bottle which if it’s a cork, will soon become damaged. A damaged cork means a looser seal, and a looser seal means more oxygen seeping into the bottle and oxidizing your whiskey.
The same is true if there are a lot of temperature fluctuations. That’s because with every fluctuation, more air flows into your bottle of Jack Daniel’s which increases its rate of oxidation.
To ensure your Jack Daniel’s whiskeys last for as long as they should without going bad, make sure to store them away from direct light and direct sunlight, and in a cool and stable environment.
For more information on how to store your bottles of Jack Daniel’s whiskey so they don’t go bad, see this more detailed article I wrote about it here.
How To Tell If Your Bottle of Jack Daniel’s Has Gone Bad
If you’ve got a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and you’re not sure of its condition, there are four things you should check to see whether it’s gone bad.
1. The Bottle
Look at your bottle and inspect it. If it’s leaking or the cork is heavily damaged, then air has probably gotten inside and changed its flavor. If the cork or the bottle is moldy, things are even worse, and your bottle of Jack Daniel’s has been contaminated.
2. The Color
If the color of your Jack Daniel’s is darker than usual and slightly syrupy, then some of the watery components may have evaporated. If it’s lighter than usual, then it may have been exposed to too much sunlight. Either way the taste of your Jack Daniel’s has probably been affected. Obviously, you’ll need to know what color your particular Jack Daniel’s whiskey is supposed to have in the first place.
3. The Smell
If the whiskey smells ok just not how you expected, then its taste has probably changed. If it smells odd or funny, then your Jack Daniel’s is probably contaminated, and you shouldn’t drink it.
4. The Taste
Check the taste of your Jack Daniel’s by taking a small sip. If it tastes mild, harsh or flat then something has changed its taste. It’s still drinkable it just won’t taste like you expected it to. If it has a sour, metallic or strange taste then your Jack Daniel’s has probably been contaminated, and you should throw it away.